Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Review: Great Performance at a High Price

RTX 3080 Ti Review

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti story should be familiar ground. Halfway through the regular product cycle, release a higher-spec, higher-performance variant of the existing x80-series part with a price that makes for a compelling upgrade. The GTX 1080 was a great card back in the day, and the GTX 1080 Ti upped the ante and basically redefined what we came to expect from a mid-cycle update. But anything even remotely competitive from our GPU benchmarks hierarchy, along with all the best graphics cards, are in a bad place right now with virtually no availability at retail and exorbitant prices on places like eBay. As a result, the RTX 3080 Ti ends up looking a lot more like the RTX 2080 Ti than the GTX 1080 Ti: Fast but expensive.

Fundamentally, nothing has changed with the Nvidia Ampere architecture. More games support ray tracing and DLSS, and driver improvements over the previous nine months have altered performance a bit since launch. Otherwise, the RTX 3080 Ti takes the same GA102 GPU found in the GeForce RTX 3090 and GeForce RTX 3080, disables two more SMs compared to the 3090, and slashes the VRAM capacity in half compared to the 3090. That’s not actually that big of a deal in most games, and performance should generally be quite similar between the two.

The real question will be retail pricing and availability, which will undoubtedly be awful. Officially, the RTX 3080 Ti Founders Edition has a $1,199 price tag — $300 less than the 3090, but $500 more than the 3080. In practice, the RTX 3080 already sells for close to $2,000 on eBay, and even in the Newegg Shuffle, it routinely goes for over $1,200. Meanwhile, the RTX 3090 pushes closer to $3,000 on eBay and costs more than $2,000 in the Newegg Shuffles we’ve tracked — and your odds of getting picked in the Shuffle are extremely low, based on our experience.

Here’s a quick overview of the specifications for the RTX 3080 Ti, along with similar Nvidia GPUs:

Nvidia GPU Specifications
Graphics Card RTX 3090 RTX 3080 Ti RTX 3080 RTX 2080 Ti
Architecture GA102 GA102 GA102 TU102
Process Technology Samsung 8N Samsung 8N Samsung 8N TSMC 12FFN
Transistors (Billion) 28.3 28.3 28.3 18.6
Die size (mm^2) 628.4 628.4 628.4 754
SMs / CUs 82 80 68 68
GPU Cores 10496 10240 8704 4352
Tensor Cores 328 320 272 544
RT Cores 82 80 68 68
Base Clock (MHz) 1395 1370 1440 1515
Boost Clock (MHz) 1695 1665 1710 1545
VRAM Speed (Gbps) 19.5 19 19 14
VRAM (GB) 24 12 10 11
VRAM Bus Width 384 384 320 352
ROPs 112 112 96 88
TMUs 328 320 272 272
TFLOPS FP32 (Boost) 35.6 34.1 29.8 13.4
TFLOPS FP16 (Tensor) 142 (285) 136 (273) 119 (238) 108
RT TFLOPS 69 67 58 43
Bandwidth (GBps) 936 912 760 616
TDP (watts) 350 350 320 260
Launch Date Sep 2020 Jun 2021 Sep 2020 Sep 2018
Launch Price $1,499 $1,199 $699 $1,199

In terms of theoretical performance, the RTX 3080 Ti lands 3–4% behind the RTX 3090 and 14–20% ahead of the RTX 3080. Memory bandwidth shows the biggest gains, thanks to the addition of two memory channels, though clocks are slightly lower on the GPU side of things. Power consumption is rated at 350W, the same as the 3090 and 30W more than the 3080, which could be a problem given the 3080 Ti Founders Edition uses the same cooler design as the 3080 rather than the triple-slot monstrosity that is the 3090 Founders Edition.

Looking at generational improvements, the RTX 3080 Ti is potentially more than double the compute performance of the 2080 Ti, with nearly 50% more memory bandwidth. In practice, we expect performance will be about 40–50% faster than the 2080 Ti, but that will mostly be at 4K and 1440p. Buying a GPU like this for 1080p gaming (unless you’re playing games with lots of ray tracing effects) would be a waste of money.

One final item of note before we continue is that the RTX 3080 Ti implements Nvidia’s Ethereum hashrate limiter. The limiter works as expected for the time being, and we saw average hash rates of 55–65 MHps at stock settings, depending on the software used. That’s basically half the performance we’d expect from the hardware and similar to what we saw with the launch of the GeForce RTX 3060. Hopefully, Nvidia doesn’t accidentally circumvent its own lock this time, though we expect pricing will remain higher than the official starting point, even with the limiter.

GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Design: Unchanged From RTX 3080

GeForce RTX 3080 Ti card photos

 

GeForce RTX 3080 Ti card photos

GeForce RTX 3080 Ti card photos

GeForce RTX 3080 Ti card photos

 

For better or worse, Nvidia hasn’t altered the card design relative to the RTX 3080 Founders Edition. The cooler mostly worked well before and ran reasonably quiet… except when the GDDR6X memory got hot and the fans had to kick up to full speed. We hoped Nvidia would use better thermal pads for the GDDR6X memory this round, especially with the addition of two more GDDR6X chips, but that doesn’t appear to have happened.

In testing, games generally didn’t have major problems, with memory temperatures peaking at anywhere from 94C–104C. The higher end of that range is a concern, however, as we’re dealing with a brand-new card. How will it perform after a year or two of use? We’ve been there, countless times, and the answer will inevitably be higher temperatures and fan speeds over time.

Testing mining algorithms was a different story, with multiple algorithms pushing the GDDR6X temps to 110C, max fan speeds, and throttling of GPU clocks to try to compensate. Some future game, or game that we haven’t tested, might behave in a similar fashion, but we haven’t encountered any specific games that match the intensity of mining. That’s the good news. The bad news is that a $10 thermal pad upgrade for the Founders Edition is still a good idea, but it would void your warranty. Nvidia should have done the ‘upgrade’ itself and used higher-quality pads.

One thing that has changed since the launch of the RTX 30-series last year is support for the RGB lighting on the cards. We’ve verified that multiple RGB utilities, including Corsair’s iCue, can now control the LEDs on the 3080 and 3090 Founders Edition cards, and that applies to the 3080 Ti Founders Edition as well. Do you want your Nvidia GPU to dress up in AMD red? Now it can! And there was much rejoicing.

We’ll be looking at some third party cards in the coming days as well, and hopefully those will pay more attention to memory cooling. This has been a sore spot on RTX 3080 and 3090 cards since launch, with only about 25% of the cards we’ve looked at using better GDDR6X cooling methods. Considering the extreme nature of these parts, we expect manufacturers to pay more attention to this important aspect of cooling going forward.

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